Cycles of Motivation: It’s Okay to be Bored

We all know the story.

We could be in the library at ten at night. We could be in a coffee shop at five in the afternoon. We could be in our beds at three in the morning, straining our eyes on a word document, fighting sleep with every ounce of our beings.

It doesn’t matter when or where, every college student knows what it feels like to have that dreaded realization: “I have no more motivation.” Nothing left to give, and a lot left to do.

Now, I’m very familiar with this feeling as it is experienced during the school year (definitely too familiar). But as the summer has progressed, I’m encountering a whole new experience: I don’t have motivation, and it feels good.


If you count the month-long directing class I took, I’ve been out of class since the end of May. And, since then, I have not finished Ulysses, my overambitious reading choice for the summer. I have not gotten very far on my essay or project which pertains to Ulysses (I’ll talk more about this in future posts, I’m sure). I have started several books, only to return them to the library without having glimpsed past the twentieth page. I started a blog and lost interest after my first post. At times, I’ve looked back on the past three weeks and seen many dismal failures at productivity.

But that’s okay.

I’ll be in second summer session soon, taking a basic statistics class, and I’ve come to realize that these past weeks have been lazy, unproductive, boring and wonderful. Even though I’ve hated it and been critical of myself at times, this unproductive boredom has been what I needed to recharge and ready myself for upcoming challenges.

I believe motivation comes and goes all the time in a sort of cycle. Sometimes the cycle takes minutes, sometimes hours, and I believe it is possible to even spend years in unproductive cycles. Maybe it’s because we’re not passionate about what we’re working on, maybe it’s because we don’t feel any pressing need to finish or start back on something we’ve been working on, but whatever the reasons, the motivation cycle is a natural one. Of course there are times when we have to push ourselves out of the cycle to complete something urgent or to take care of ourselves when we’re overworked. Additionally, there are probably lots of ways we can manipulate the cycle. But sometimes it is simply enough to enjoy the natural comings and goings of motivation.

It’s okay to be unmotivated. It’s okay to be bored.

Because for whatever reason, motivation will usually return. And when we are able to accept being unmotivated for a spell, we can use the energy that we would use to stress about the work we could be doing, and use it to recharge and refocus. This is a great strategy that I often use when pulling all-nighters. I’ll change locations after an hour or two, or reward myself with fifteen minutes of downtime to help me tackle the rest of the work.

And I think that when we find ourselves in larger unproductive periods that stretch for weeks or more, we can see these periods as time to reflect and refocus. This will help us in the future, when our motivation has returned and our projects are due. Personally, I’m planning on enjoying being slothful for the rest of the week till Statistics 155 starts, and I’ll be ready to fully engage with it and the other projects I’m working on.

So instead of criticizing yourself for watching Netflix for five hours, or binge-watching the Bond films (a personal project of mine), enjoy being unproductive for a bit. It could help you in the long run.

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